French Hits of the 70s

French Hits of the 70s

Many French pop aficionados are obsessed with the yé-yé generation of the 1960s. It is true that there were many great musicians at the time, such as Georges Brassens, France Gall and Jacques Dutronc. But the big pop hits didn’t just end in 1970. Here are five good pop songs from the ’70s, the decade of the concept album and disco. Brigitte Fontaine was experimenting. Françoise Hardy was reinventing herself. And Patrick Juvet was wearing sequins and partying like a rock star.

Françoise Hardy – The Song of O (1971)

After a string of hits in the 60s, Hardy teamed up with Brazilian musician Tuca to make the album La Question. The two women wrote and arranged together, and the result of their collaboration is sparse and elegant. “La Chanson d’O” stands out for its abstract breathability with striking bossa nova lines. It was a great direction for Françoise Hardy. Sadly, Tuca died in 1978 at the age of 34.

Philippe Lavil – With the Girls I Don’t Know (1970)

Lavil’s second single is a catchy and silly pop song. Thanks to Scopitone technology, there’s a video of the handsome singer in a tawny velvet suit hanging on a cowhide rug next to women singing almost annoying backing vocals. Philippe Lavil was born and raised in Martinique. He recorded his first hit, “À la califourchon”, while studying business in France.

Brigitte Fontaine and Areski Belkacem – You and Us (1977)

The 70’s were the era of the album. Fontaine and Belkacem have been working together on projects for nearly a decade at this point, and they go the distance on Vous et nous, with 29 tracks lasting anywhere from ten seconds to nearly seven minutes. Spoken word, Arabic percussion, heavy Minimoog action thanks to Jean-Philippe Rykiel – no two songs are the same, but it all goes together. The title track is groundbreaking.

Patrick Juvet – Where are the Women (1977)

This massive disco hit by Swiss star Patrick Juvet was written during his heavy partying phase. Over-indulgence was all the rage at the time, and Juvet had the wherewithal to actually pull it off. Before that, he was making music more in the vein of Marc Bolan, with hits like the thunderous “Unisex.”

Serge Gainsbourg – To Arms and So On (1979)

Provocateur and French pop giant Gainsbourg sparked controversy with this reworking of La Marseillaise. Recorded in Kingston with legendary reggae musicians/producers Sly and Robbie, the song was a huge hit and a welcome change for Gainsbourg. It’s refreshing to hear him with rhythmic backup singers as opposed to the duets he’s done with Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot, sexy as they are.

The 1970s saw Françoise Hardy and Serge Gainsbourg collaborating with Latin and Caribbean musicians. The surreal Brigitte Fontaine continued to work with Areski Belkacem, who was of Algerian descent. Philippe Lavil, white but from Martinique, entered the scene with a direct pop. And Patrick Juvet has made some solid disco hits.

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